By Stelios Orphanides
Paul Manafort, a former advisor of US president Donald Trump, received loans totalling up to $17m (€19.6m) from entities belonging to a pro-Russia party in Ukraine via shell companies in Cyprus, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Manafort, who joined Trump’s campaign in March 2016 and resigned five months later, had worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of the Regions of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych before he was ousted in 2014, the New York Times reported on its website. Manafort was reportedly one of the eight persons that attended a meeting with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who promised to provide the Trump campaign damaging information on his opponent in the presidential election Hillary Clinton.
The FBI is investigating a possible Russian meddling in last year’s presidential elections in the US.
The New York Times reported that one of the loans extended to the Cyprus-based LOAV Advisers Ltd, an entity linked to Manafort, totalling $7.8m, was owed to Oguster Management Ltd, a company based in British Virgin Islands (BVI) affiliated to Oleg Deripaska, described as a Russian billionaire and oligarch close to Russia’s head of state Vladimir Putin.
Yanukovych’s departure in 2014 angered Putin who ordered in response the capture and annexation of Crimea.
The loan is unsecured and carries an annual interest rate of 2 per cent, while the contract includes no provision about specific repayment dates, the New York Times reported. According to the website of the Registrar of Companies, LOAV is still active.
In addition, a second company linked to Manafort, the Delaware-based Jesand L.L.C. received a $9.9m loan from the Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Ltd, linked to Ivan Fursin, a parliamentarian of Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, according to the New York Times report. While Lucicle’s ownership is unclear, the link to Fursin is established via Mistaro Ventures, a St. Kitts and Nevis-based firm linked to the Ukrainian politician. In Feburary 2012, Mistaro transferred “millions” to Lucicle before the latter extended the $9.9m loan to Jesand, which is also unsecured, carries a 3.5 per cent annual interest rate and is payable on demand, the US newspaper reported.
It added that, while the documents containing information about the loans were filed in 2015 and concern the financial year 2013, there is no indication that the loans had been repaid in the meantime.
A Deripaska spokesperson declined to comment while a spokesman of Manafort described the records as stale adding that they “do not purport to reflect any current financial arrangements,” the New York Times added. The Manafort spokesman said that the former Trump advisor was not indebted to the Russian billionaire.
Some of the transactions involving entities linked to Manafort appear to originate from the Seychelles or the BVI and were completed also through Hellenic Bank and defunct Cyprus Popular Bank, widely known as Laiki, the New York Times reported.
A third Cyprus-based company linked to Manafort, Black Sea View Ltd, appears to be part of a corporate structure set up by Manafort to invest in Black Sea Cable, a Ukrainian telecommunications company, according to the New York Times. Black Sea View appears to have received a $9.2m loan in 2012 from four entities, including Intrahold AG and Monohold AG which Ukrainian authorities suspect of being behind an alleged looting of public assets by allies of Yanukovych.
Bank of Cyprus, which inherited Laiki did not respond to the Cyprus Business Mail’s request for comment. A Hellenic Bank source said that Manafort has never been a customer at the bank.
In March, Bank of Cyprus said that Manafort was not longer a customer of Cyprus’s largest lender and had not inherited from Laiki any companies linked to Manafort. NBC reported in the same month that PEM Advisors Ltd, also linked to Manafort, was used to transfer funds from Deripaska.
LOAV, Lucicle, Black Sea View and PEM Advisors are headquartered at 1, Lampousas street, 1095 Nicosia, which happens to be the address of the Kypros Chrysostomides & Co LLC law firm. Chrysostomides did not respond to a request for comment.
The full report is available here.